Pregnancy is exciting and wonderful, but also a time of huge change. There’s an overwhelming amount of new information; big decisions to make; your body is doing strange new things and your hormones can be all over the place. That’s why it’s important to have simple strategies ready to manage stress during pregnancy. Here are a few starting points:
Get enough rest
- You will feel more tired than usual – it takes a lot out of your body to grow a baby! Don’t over-commit yourself to social events or new projects. Make space in your calendar to rest.
- Practice good sleep habits. Have a regular bedtime and waking time, even on weekends. Keep your room comfortably cool, dark and free of distractions. Avoid screen-time for an hour before bed.
Have a hobby that distracts you
- A great hobby focuses all your attention and gives you a break from the mental load of everything else. Take up knitting, gardening, art classes, reading – anything you really enjoy! The only trick is it has to be active (engaging you fully) and not passive (like bingeing Netflix).
Exercise for managing stress during pregnancy
- Exercise is brilliant for both mental and physical health. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week for overall health benefits. The best exercises in pregnancy are walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates.
- You don’t have to do a full exercise session to help with stress during pregnancy though. Any movement is better than nothing! Our practice manager swears by a 10 minute walk in the fresh air at lunchtime.
- Aim for a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and good quality protein. You’ll feel healthier and more energetic, which in turn gives you more capacity to handle the stressful times.
- Too much caffeine can make you feel jittery and anxious. Refined sugar and empty carbs make your blood sugar spike then crash, so you feel tired and shaky. It’s tempting to reach for a giant coffee or bar of chocolate when you’re stressed but it will probably make you feel worse in the long run. Try herbal tea or a handful of nuts and berries instead.
Managing stress during pregnancy means asking for support
- Chat to all the women in your life who have been there, done that – your mum, aunties, grandma and sisters will have all sorts of useful tips.
- Ask for practical help, especially around the birth. Frozen dinners, babysitting older siblings, dropping off last-minute supplies – your nearest and dearest will probably be delighted to help out.
Breathing exercises & meditation
- There are loads of great apps available to guide you through meditation and breathing exercises. Meditation has proven benefits for managing stress.
Let a few things go
- Don’t exhaust yourself trying to juggle everything. You need to keep up your energy reserves for when the baby arrives. It’s ok to say no to a few extra commitments and social events.
- Limit social media. It sets up unrealistic expectations that can be bad for your mental health. It’s also a very unreliable source of medical information.
Have a Plan B
- It’s good to have a vision of your ideal pregnancy and birth and to work towards that vision. But unforeseen circumstances arise all the time (COVID anyone?). Have a Plan A, but also think about how you might adjust your plan, should your pregnancy take an unexpected turn. You’ll be less overwhelmed in the moment.
Know when you are experiencing more than stress during pregnancy
- Most women will experience moments of stress during pregnancy. However, some women will experience anxiety and depression. It’s important not to write off these more serious problems as ‘just stress.’
- If you are feeling persistently anxious, sad, angry or overwhelmed please talk to a healthcare professional.
- Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia, the Gidget Foundation and Lifeline are all extremely helpful resources
As always, this information is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Please discuss any medical issues with your own doctor. Read our full medical disclaimer here.